I’ve only seen a small handful of shows at Théâtre Fairmount, but every time I’ve been there, I’ve walked away from shows that were mind-blowing, like Chelsea Wolfe or Sunn O))). Maybe it’s the venue, or perhaps I’ve just been lucky, but tonight I was three for three when I watched Deafheaven.
Starting the night off at a bit past 8:30PM was New York City’s Uniform. My experience with these guys was minimal as my first introduction to them was via an EP split they did with The Body. That particular EP was one of the dirtiest, disgusting things I had ever heard, and I mean that in the best way possible. I was intrigued, but hadn’t dug further into their discography and figured I would wait until I saw them live to form a full opinion.
Holy. Fucking. Hell. I don’t think anyone was prepared for the onslaught that was lead singer Michael Berdan. He commanded the stage with a level of both intimidation and charisma that made you feel a strange mix of fear and excitement. You didn’t know if he might accidentally hit you in the head with his microphone or jump into the crowd to mosh along with you. Their guitarist, Ben Greenberg wielded his ax like a maniac, backed by a drummer (couldn’t find his name, strangely) who I could’ve sworn was going to smash the shit out of his kit at any point, judging by the way he pounded away at that thing.
It was fucking awesome.
They were like a Sex Pistols on acid. Michael’s voice certainly had that Johnny Rotten-esque quality, but in a much heavier way, if that makes any sense. Their sound seemed to combine elements of punk, doom metal, black metal, and industrial, all wrapped up into a ball of pure, ferocious energy. Their set ended, and I wanted more.
At this point in the evening, Drab Majesty was supposed to be up next. Sadly, they were denied entry into Canada. I was majorly bummed out about this. I had been listening to them for a few weeks now. Their blend of dark, synth-wave pop carries the torch of bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode beautifully. It would have been an almost soothing, balm-like set to witness after experiencing Uniform and before watching Deafheaven. Sadly, it was not meant to be. As I write this review, I’m blasting their latest record, The Demonstration, in the hopes that they’ll one day make it back here.
But alas, the crowd was ready for Deafheaven. At approximately 9:45pm the lights went down, and out walked George, Dan, Shiv, Chris and…. wait… where’s Kerry!? Unfortunately, Drab Majesty weren’t the only ones held up at the border. Guitarist Kerry McCoy was too, which meant Deafheaven was playing as a four-piece band tonight. I was a little worried. This was my fourth Deafheaven show, and their incredible live performances were phenomenal in no small part because of the guitar duo of Kerry and Shiv as they trade riffs and melodies. How was this going to work with a piece of the puzzle missing?
They kicked off the evening the first single, “Honeycomb,” from their latest record, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. It would end up being the only new song they played that night. If you’ve heard the new album, you know that it’s ripe with beautiful melodies that only two guitars would be able to replicate live. So, instead, the fans were treated to a “classic” Deafheaven set which consisted of songs from Sunbather and New Bermuda.
No one was complaining. As the ominous church bells rang from the opening of their next song,“Brought To The Water,” the crowd was ready to explode. And explode they did. As the blast beat frenzy and the slog-like riff of that track kicked in, everyone was locked in for an evening of pure Deafheaven magic.
Up next was the title track from their hit record, “Sunbather.” There was no question that people love the old stuff, as the crowd continued to eat up every shriek courtesy of George Clarke’s voice. This song was the highlight of the night for me. At around the three-minute mark, the song briefly comes to a slowdown before erupting into the fast-paced, shoegaze-black-metal onslaught they’re known for. Just as that eruption occurred, one dude in the crowd yelled “LET’S FUCKING GO!”, and the crowd went absolutely bonkers. I think that perfectly captured how much the crowd loved them.
Based on previous setlists I found, the next tack was supposed to be “Worthless Animal,” another new one. Instead, it was swapped out for “Come Back,” off their previous record New Bermuda. I was perfectly okay with that decision. Come Back is my favorite track from that record, and hearing it live was absolutely insane.
The night ended with From “The Kettle Onto The Coil” and the track that skyrocketed their career, “Dream House.” And what a way to end the night it was. The name of the game now was crowd surfing, jumping on to the stage and George Clarke practically getting off the stage, into the crowd and singing along with fans. It was a beautiful thing to behold.
Black metal purists hate Deafheaven, and to me, that’s hilarious. These guys are the real deal. They’re one of the hardest working bands in metal right now and in my opinion, have crafted album after album of masterpieces, always bring something new to the table in the process. As a four-piece, there were moments where Kerry’s absence was noticed, especially during the more somber, slow moments in songs. But they made the best of it and provided the fans with another memorable evening, something I’m sure they do in every city they play.
Written by Dominic Abate
Photography by Michael Kovac
*edited by Kate Erickson